On February 21st and 22nd, Campus Activities Board (CAB) put on an event in Gasson 100 called the “History of Black Lives at Boston College”. Their goal was to exhibit Black history throughout the years at BC as a part of their effort to celebrate Black History Month. The event consisted of a circle of boards depicting important Black members of the BC community in athletics, student government, faculty, and administration.
Each portion of this chronological gallery walk consisted of a poster profiling a specific person and their contributions to the Black community at BC, as well as various newspaper clippings from The Heights and photographs depicting the highlighted person. Additionally, there were plaques around the chronological exhibit showing the numbers of Black students at BC over the years.
The first stop was Casper Ferguson ‘37, BC’s first African American graduate, and later Dr. Ferdinand Rousseve, the first full-time Black faculty member. It then moved on to Lou Montgomery ‘41, the first Black student-athlete at Boston College; he played on both the football and baseball teams. Doxie McCoy ‘77 is believed to be the first Black female athlete at BC, playing field hockey and helping to found the original BC women’s ice hockey team. Duane Deskins ‘76 was the first Black UGBC president, paving the way for Setti Warren ‘93, the second Black UGBC president and the first Black mayor of the City of Newton. The exhibit concluded with more recent members of the BC community, such as Akosa Opokua-Achampong ‘18, the first female African American UGBC president.
The walk-through had quiet music playing in the background and dim lighting, highlighting the somewhat somber nature of the event. While the goal was to celebrate Black history at BC, it is also important to recognize that Black students at this Predominantly White Institution (PWI) have historically been marginalized and discriminated against. The visual and auditory effects serve as a reminder to viewers of the hardships Black students and faculty had to overcome here at BC.
Saamir Choudhry, CSOM ‘24, is a CAB member who was in charge of helping to run this event. When asked about student reception to the exhibit, he said that, to CAB, the actual number of students that attended was less important than the time students spent there and what they took away. Generally, he remarked, students had been taking their time as they walked through, really internalizing the information at each stop and being respectful of the history that was being presented.
CAB decided to put this event on again after they had previously done it last year, although they were able to make some changes with the less restrictive Covid policies this year. Additionally, there have been other BC or student organization sponsored events around campus this February in light of Black History Month. FACES Council, partnering with the Film Society, presented a screening of Judas and the Black Messiah, accompanied by a discussion on race and oppression in film and media.
Continuing throughout the rest of the semester, BAIC is hosting Dialogues on Race starting in late February or early March and running for three weeks each. Students will get together, either via Zoom or in-person, once a week for three weeks to discuss their chosen topic. Available discussion groups range from Race & Sports to Race & Criminal Justice. Campus Ministry held a special liturgy for Black History Month in St. Ignatius to reflect on and celebrate Black lives.
There is still much progress to be made in the realm of having conversations on race here at BC, but in recent weeks and months, organizations and academic departments on campus have made a concerted effort to highlight Black history both in general and here at BC. Having these types of conversations on racism can be uncomfortable, but hopefully BC students take advantage of these spaces to share their thoughts and learn from their peers about how to be more actively anti-racist here on campus.
Can usually be found listening to The Strokes or Taylor Swift. Spends far too much time eating ice cream or rewatching the same 3 TV shows and would probably rather be at the beach right now.